India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Hyderabad, 3rd day November 14, 2010

Poor final hour undoes New Zealand's hard work

ESPNcricinfo staff

At the press conference, Ross Taylor's face was that of a man who had dominated 11 rounds of a fight only to be floored by the sucker punch in the final round. For five hours, disciplined bowling and unbelievably good fielding had made the most feted batting line-up in the game look ordinary and induced a succession of poor shots. With India 355 for 8, New Zealand could scent parity and a realistic chance of upsetting India at a venue that has so far been a graveyard for home teams. Seventy-five minutes of Harbhajan Singh-inspired mayhem later, the pendulum has swung away from them, perhaps decisively.

"It was one of those days where you'll take the first five hours," said Taylor with what could best be described as a rueful shrug. "The last hour was just disappointing. You've got to give it to Harbhajan, who once again batted very well. He was well supported by Sreesanth. It would have been a very good day if we were only 20 or 30 behind and had a bit of a bat tonight. Hopefully we can come out, get the early wicket tomorrow and bat the rest of the day tomorrow."

New Zealand's day started perfectly with the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar, and Daniel Vettori who got him was once again the focal point of a display that belied New Zealand's No. 8 ranking. Again, he varied pace and flight beautifully and rarely gave the batsmen anything to hit. India made just 59 in the opening session, and the pace bowlers supplemented his long spells with tireless endeavour of their own.

"He's been doing that for a long time for New Zealand cricket," said Taylor about his captain. "Going in with only one spinner, he knew he had to bowl a lot. I thought Chris Martin, Tim Southee and Brent Arnel bowled very well. We just let it slip towards the end there."

As tidily as they bowled, the most eye-catching aspect of the New Zealand performance was their fielding prowess. Rahul Dravid spoke of the innumerable singles they prevented and the pressure that created, and their superior athleticism in the field came to the fore right through the day's play.

"We always pride ourselves on our fielding," Taylor said. "That's an area we can control. When you're batting, what you do is dictated by how the bowler bowls to you. Your bowling plans sometimes come off, sometimes they don't. Without the gloves on, Brendon [McCullum] leads the fielding, and I thought the way he, Williamson and Guptill fielded today was outstanding."

When MS Dhoni, the last of the frontline batsmen, departed with India still 14 in arrears, the New Zealand think-tank were due for a few pats on the back. But along came Harbhajan and the plan went to the shredder. "The way we bowled to Zaheer was good," said Taylor with another half-grimace. "With the short boundary straight, Harbhajan just hurt us. What would have been pretty good balls to most batsmen, he was hitting for six. He's taken two 50s and a hundred off us, and our plans will have to be revised.

"One of the plans was to bowl short, but the short ball seemed to go a long way today. He has obviously improved his batting. After three innings, no one would have believed that he'd have nearly as many runs as Sehwag."

But having pushed India to the precipice on the fourth day in Ahmedabad and having made them look little like world-leaders for most of Sunday, New Zealand certainly aren't poised to throw in the towel. "We'd like to keep the lead under 100," said Taylor. "If we can get the early wicket and bat the rest of the day, you never know. If we can be 150 ahead, it could be an interesting [final-day] chase on that wicket."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 15, 2010, 7:12 GMT

    wo wo wo guys lOl dis is wre we can say wt we wanna say ae??and i don think u guys hv to comnt on wt i think ae... just because u all r crazy abt cricket and treat ur team bad wen dey loose hit dem and burn dre houses, dey must be plying while burning inside out... sri lankan cricketrs suckers or wtsoevr as uve mentiond we treat dem just da same dey loose or win...

  • sreedev on November 15, 2010, 6:12 GMT

    No one is saying Dhoni is a bad fact he might just about be on par with Saurav as India's best captain. But he does need to pull up his socks as far as his batting is concerned...we cant have the captain and No.7 batsman with an average of 15 over the past few tests. And why Dhoni alone? I think Sachin and Rahul need to pull up their socks too. One seems to be playing to keep his place and the other to reach a personal milestone. We need both these guys to fire and be at their best in South Africa. Like someone mentioned, Rahul should probably swap batting positions with Laxman. Remember that test against Australia where they swapped positions and it paid dividends for the team, Rahul and Laxman. But I would have still liked to see India go in with 5 bowlers against a team like NZ at home. Give Ishant and Mishra some confidence and time to get into their groove. Remember, SA is not too good against leg spin which makes Mishra a pretty vital player for that tour. Think...

  • Dummy4 on November 15, 2010, 3:49 GMT

    @Pranav Desai, Dhoni is an average to poor keeper. He is far worse than McCullum Boucher, Sangakkara, P. Jayawardene and probably Prior too. He is a great captain and a game changing batsman when he is on fire. He needs to bring his ODI mindset to tests. I would like to also point out that New Zealand is doing better in India than Australia did! Ricky Ponting should take a captaincy lesson from Danny V!

  • sunil on November 15, 2010, 3:02 GMT

    Few things to add. The score past 400 and this is happenig from so many series for india. If a team is scoring 400 most of the time, that means the team is performing very well. It should not matter who is scoring runs. today we look at the scorecard and after few days we will only remember that there was a series with NZ and we will only remember the result. As far as performance of players is concerned we need all of them to fire in World Cup not in this series. It will be a concern in the world cup not now. Let all the players struggle now with the form and come back in form before the WC2011.

  • Dummy4 on November 15, 2010, 1:07 GMT

    Bhajji is an Australian in Indian team. Go Bhajji If yuvraj fails in 2 games in a row, everyone jumps up and down. I can't see dhoni and raina doing any better. Get rid of them.

  • tam on November 15, 2010, 0:33 GMT

    Pranav Desai theres no way that dhonis a better wicketkeepeer then McCullum

  • pavandeep on November 14, 2010, 23:55 GMT

    Dhoni and Raina are turning out to be a liability for the test team.

  • pavandeep on November 14, 2010, 23:53 GMT

    Harbhajan Singhs inning has been nothing less than a fairy tale story. Hopefully he gets his second ton tommorow. He deserves it.

  • Scott on November 14, 2010, 22:56 GMT

    I am sorry but on what planet is Dhoni a good captain? What sort of captain allows a new batsman to hit one four and then places the fielder on the boundry allowing easy singles? What sort of captain does not go for the aggressive win in the first test? What sort of captain only plays defensively for long periods of time.

    Dhoni is not a good captain, Vettori is not a good captain, Pointing is not a good captain. Strauss is not a good captain, Sangakarra is not a good captain, Lara is not a good captain, I will not even bother commenting on Pakistan's cricket right now.

    There is only one good captain in international cricket at the moment and that is Smith. This is my unbiased opinion as a Kiwi who loves the blackcaps and Vettori but right now after watching the field placing when Bhaji was batting was embarrising. Full credit to Bhaji though, he is complete class and took advantage of the situation but the players need to realise they are bowling to 8 and 11 not 3 and 11.

  • Ashok on November 14, 2010, 22:26 GMT

    I would like to change the heading to "Harbhajan's Finest Hour". NZ played well all day untill Harbhajan came in to play a Sehwag like attacking innings. Whilst Sachin and Dravid failed to counter Vetttori's tactics, Harbhajan showed these 2 batsmen how it should be done. If India is to win tests they need attacking batting followed by good bowling to counter their average fielding. India's bowling is below average as shown by letting NZ nearly 400 hundred runs in both the tests so far.Only Sehwag, Laxman and Harbhajan batted like heroes of #1 world test team. Rest of the batting was average to poor - especially from Sachin, Dravid, Dhoni & Raina. India needs one more wicket taking bowler in the side. I also feel that Pujara & Yuvraj be given a chance at the expense of Dravid and Raina to boost up the batting with some agression. Sreesanth should also give way to either Ishant or alternate such as Unadkat, Mithun, Nehra.This Team lacks winning attitude - passion & aggression.

  • No featured comments at the moment.